Athlon adds some 'Rise and Fire' to a lackluster tournament.
March Madness has lacked some excitement this year, and one reason seems obvious. Besides badly-officiated contests, a lack of shooters and no buzzer-beaters, the missing ingredient has to be the absence of Gus Johnson announcing games. We have compiled some of his past tournament gems, along with some other great calls from the man who gets buckets.
2006 – UCLA 73, Gonzaga 71
We start with a dramatic comeback that ended an amazing season for Gonzaga. UCLA trailed by 17 points but scored the game’s final 11 points to win a Sweet 16 thriller. Seeing Adam Morrison face down on the floor and crying at the end of the game is one of the more lasting images of past tournaments. It was truly “Heartbreak City!”
2007 – Ohio State 78, Xavier 71 (OT)
The drama in this classic contest was at the end of regulation, when Ohio State’s Ron Lewis hit a three to force overtime against Xavier. You can truly feel the excitement of March with “We’re going to overtime…in Lexington. Ha Ha!” The Buckeyes survived the second round and went on to a title game loss to Florida.
1999 – Gonzaga 73, Florida 72
Gonzaga was not always a fixture in March Madness. The Bulldogs had only been in the tournament one time prior to 1999, and they had beaten Minnesota and Stanford to get to the Sweet 16. The Zags kept the momentum going against Florida, as a Casey Calvary make and subsequent Eddie Shannon miss led to one of Gus’ more famous calls, “Gonzaga! The slipper still fits.”
2005 – Vermont 60, Syracuse 57 (OT)
Who can forget the stunning upset of No. 4 seed Syracuse by Vermont in 2005? The underdog Catamounts held down Orange stars Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick, and they provided the dagger with a minute to go in overtime when “Sorrentine hit that one from the parking lot!”
2005 – Gonzaga 64, Oklahoma State 62
This was not a March Madness matchup, but it is definitely one of my favorite buzzer-beater calls and reactions from Gus and Bill Raftery. Oklahoma State had traveled to Seattle to play Gonzaga in Key Arena for this thriller. The nation’s leading scorer, Adam Morrison, banked in the game-winning three ball in the final seconds as the Bulldogs pulled it out. The classic aftermath went from “What a game!” to “Larry Bird….maybe?” to “Major Onions!” from the entertaining Raftery.
1996 – Princeton 43, UCLA 41
Gus got a classic assignment in his first season doing the tournament, as Pete Carril’s Tigers upset the defending national champions from Westwood. The video is rough, but the audio is great. This is a long version, so fast forward to the 6:45 mark unless you’re a complete old-school hoops fan like me. This upset was simply “Unbelievable!” and it led the famous headline in the Daily Princetonian, “David 43 Goliath 41.”
2009 – Denver Broncos 12, Cincinnati Bengals 7
It’s not college basketball, but I had to add in this game-winning catch by Denver’s Brandon Stokley in '09. The Broncos trailed the Bengals, 7-6, with 28 seconds to go in an otherwise boring game. However, Stokley caught a tipped pass from Kyle Orton and raced 87 yards for the improbable game-winning score, “Oh my goodnees, what a play!”
2009 – Tennessee Titans 30, Jacksonville Jaguars 13
One more NFL clip. Chris Johnson went for over 2,000 yards in ’09, and this run produced a hysterical call. As the Titans’ burner breaks off a 52-yard touchdown run against the Jags, Gus describes a new level of fast - “Gettin’ away from the cops” speed.
2010 – Kansas State 101, Xavier 96 (2OT)
It’s back to the NCAA Tournament, and this was an all-time March Madness thriller. K-State was leading near the end of regulation and the first overtime, but Xavier’s Terrell Holloway and Jordan Crawford each made huge plays to keep this war of attrition going. In the end, Wildcats star Jacob Pullen shows “He’s in shape!”